An Ode to (Airplane) Food
Amanda’s winter break post covers many miscellaneous topics including her youth, her favorite bagel sandwich (spoiler: it wasn’t in New York, blasphemy, I know), and Harry Potter.
I write my winter break post from seat 6D aboard a United flight from Jacksonville, FL. Out the window are clouds that I was quite sad to learn I could not walk on, and isolated houses with pools big enough to spot from the sky. There’s a baby in close proximity, but hey, when is there not?
To be honest, I love being on airplanes. My dad was military for most of my life, so we spent the holidays either moving or taking a plane to visit relatives on an end of the country or a different continent. I have fond memories of fighting with my sister over the headphone triangle splitter to listen to the Top 40 radio station that was miraculously stored in my armrest, or trying to understand complicated in-flight movies about angry people who have tension on their family vineyards. There was a distinct cut off around the time I was twelve, I guess, when airplanes stopped giving you food. Well, food that was worth eating, anyway (sorry, salty peanuts).
My family was stationed in Germany when I was in middle school, and the dream of airplane food (a phrase no one has said, ever) was still alive aboard Lufthansa airlines. Forget soggy sandwiches or mini bags of pretzels, Herr Lufthansa gave delightful concoctions of roasted chicken and elaborate pasta dishes. One flight, I slept through the “dinner” time and was bitter for the rest of the flight. There’s not a lot to look forward to when you’re on a 9 hour flight. The movies and TV shows cycle through and even though the stewardesses turn the lights off, your body knows the truth and keeps you awake through the lies and deception. The only salvation is the snack cart.
Nowadays, as an embittered and hardened frequent flier, I feel the need to practice the art of bookending my flights with good food…
My family feels similarly, and now that my dad travels frequently for week, we often spend time hunting down the best restaurants in specific terminals in airports all over the country. In Dulles? There’s a weird little nook at the end of C that serves breakfast sandwiches on a bargain. In Jacksonville? Hit Shula’s next to A3, burgers and cole slaw my friends. In Park City, Utah? Skip the Starbucks and hit up the independent chain for some fantastic local coffee. To put it simply, my family and I are the people who laugh a bit at the Terminal and then Up in the Air but then get serious because it’s our lives.
I know it’s the place on the other end of the flight that matters, though. Both sets of my grandparents live in southern California. One pair always greets us with an insane amount of deli meats, chocolate rolls, and bagels that we devour with the dexterity and fierceness of those giant spiders in Harry Potter. The other set brings us to whatever Chinese food joint is their new favorite and dozens of dumplings are bestowed upon us from the heavens (or the kitchens, whichever is more likely). Similarly, my mom always has something amazing prepared, whether it’s homemade Belgian waffles or banana nut muffins or lasagna. When I return to New York on my own, I text my roommate “ETA 7:30, INDIAN FOOD?!?!” (The answer is “YES OMG IM SO HUNGRY”)
So, you see, these days, for me airplane food doesn’t come in a little black tray. It shows up as fresh tacos wrapped in foil, take out boxes with stereotypical red dragons on the front, heated up in a bowl as soon as I walk in the door, a family owned French bistro next to a Laundromat in a Floridian strip mini mall, and in pink boxes from Jewish delis. That airplane food is a reward for being on said airplane, and I receive it proudly.
Amanda is spending this winter break in Florida, Virginia, and California. She wrote about her last foodie trip to California two years ago here. As she says that, she realizes that means she is a junior and has been involved with Culinary Society for years, and is slightly disturbed by the process of growing up.
Written by: amandatien